REVIEW: Voodoo Lab pedal switching systems
Ever since the invention of effect pedals, guitarists have suffered a major dilemma – how to use them in an interesting and creative way without letting the performance side of things down by having to do the famous multiple pedal tap dance, and without degrading the overall signal by chaining too many effects together. Voodoo Lab has tackled both problems, for those who have rack systems or those who lay all their effects on the floor in front of them.
Voodoo Lab Pedal Switcher
The simplest such offering is the Pedal Switcher. It includes four audio loops and four on/off switches. The loops are true bypass, built with gold relays sealed in nitrogen for the most pure tone possible. The basic theory is that if your pedals aren’t true bypass, plug them into the Pedal Switcher’s loops and you’re essentially replacing the pedal’s on/off switches with the ones in the Pedal Switcher. This makes it an ideal choice for players who only have a small number of pedals, and want to keep all switching contained while preserving sound quality.
You can also use the 4th loop to change channels on your amp, or the loops can be used to mute the signal between songs or for silent tuning. There are buffered and non-buffered inputs. The buffered input is ideal for preserving the character of the guitar’s pickups, and for helping the audio signal to survive the degrading sonic effects of overly long guitar cables. Finally, there’s MIDI In/Out for your more sophisticated processors. Of course if you have more than 4 pedals you can chain several Pedal Switchers together, or you can integrate them with the Commander module.
Voodoo Lab Commander
The Commander takes the Pedal Switcher concept to the next level. With Pedal Switcher, each switch still only controls one pedal at a time, like having a row of regular stompboxes on the floor. With Commander, you can program up to 10 pedal combinations to be recalled with the stomp of a foot.
Commander is essentially an add-on that can control an unlimited number of Pedal Switcher units, allowing you to turn on or off multiple Pedal Switcher loops at once. Imagine having a 2X12 combo with a chorus pedal for your clean tone on Preset 1, then stepping on Preset 2 for a solo, instantly kicking in a100 watt head and 4X12 speaker cabinet with an overdrive pedal in the front of the chain and a delay unit in the effects loop, while simultaneously switching channels on the combo, turning off the chorus pedal and adding a fuzz pedal and some Univibe.
Commander is a great option for those who still want a more traditional “There’s a switch, I step on it and my pedals go on or off” system, but need control of multiple units at once. For those control freaks like me who need absolute dominion over their effects, there’s the Ground Control system.
Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro/GCX Audio Switcher
The Ground Control system includes the CGX Audio Switcher, which is a rack-mounted unit with 8 loops, and the Ground Control Pro, a floor board which takes the place of a traditional pedalboard. With the Pedal Switcher and Commander you’ll still probably want to keep them on the same board as your pedals. With the Ground Control you can keep your pedals safely stashed in a rack with the GCX Audio Switcher.
Each GCX loop has an input, output, and loop. Like the Pedal Switcher, loops can be used to change amp channel settings. Because there are multiple loops, and up to four GCX units can be used at once, this is great news for those who have amps with many different footswitchable features.
The Ground Control Pro is a full-featured MIDI foot controller compatible with all MIDI devices. It can control up to 8 different MIDI devices, or takes the place of both the Pedal Switcher and Commander, and then some. With the Ground Control Pro, you can store up to 200 presets, in groups of either 10 or 4. There’s also a display so you can name each preset after the song it’s used for, or the general tone: ‘Rhythm’, ‘Lead’, ‘Lead/Whammy’, etc.
You can add expression pedals to the Ground Control Pro to take the place of your wah, whammy, volume, or whatever treadle-operated devices you may have, so they can stay safely in the rack. Ground Control also allows you to set a volume level for each preset – very handy if your amp doesn’t have a switchable boost or multiple channels, but you need to crank it for solos.
Here’s a hypothetical based on my band’s current setlist. If I had a Ground Control Pro I would set to the ‘4 presets per bank’ mode, which gives you presets 1 through 4 on the bottom row, freeing up the upper 2 rows as instant access buttons for kicking in various effects. I would have 4 main sounds: Rhythm, Heavy Rhythm, Clean, and Solo. Rhythm would include my amp’s crunch channel, a clean boost, and light compression. Heavy Rhythm would add an EQ pedal with a scooped midrange. Clean would be the crunch channel without the clean boost, but with light chorus and a slapback delay, and Solo would be the amp’s lead channel with a different delay setting. Using the 8 remaining buttons, I could add phaser, octave, wah and whammy effects to any preset whenever I feel like it, and select between multiple distortion pedals to add a different edge to the Solo tone depending on whether I need a fuzzier sound for more open, phrasing-based solos, or a cleaner one that tracks better for megashred. It’s also good to see that the Ground Control Pro has a setting configured to control Line6’s Pod and Flextone II.
Personally the Ground Control system would be my pick purely because I like the idea of having everything happen with one step, as well as being able to add an effect to a note or two here and there for emphasis, EVH-style, without having to rethink my entire signal chain. But Pedal Switcher and Commander are also extremely useful, and Voodoo Lab really has thought of everything for any player who uses effects, whether they have a combo amp and two pedals duct taped to a plank of plywood, or a refrigerator-sized rack with a stage full of quad boxes.
PEDAL SWITCHER SPECS:
4 True Bypass audio loops
4 Instant access on/off switches
A/B Amp selector
Programmable presets via Commander
Fully compatible with Ground Control Pro and GCX Audio Switcher
CLICK HERE to buy the Pedal Switcher
10 user customizable presets
5 preset access switches plus bank up/down
Phantom powered by Pedal Switcher
Controls an unlimited number of Pedal Switcher units
Multiple Commanders can be used for changing presets from an alternate stage position
CLICK HERE to buy the Commander
GCX GUITAR AUDIO SWITCHER SPECS:
8 true bypass audio loops
2 front-to-back feedthroughs
Buffered and passive inputs
A/B switching to select amp and preamps
Controls any footswitch function
Phantom powers Ground Control Pro via MIDI cable
Hand built in the U.S.A.
CLICK HERE to buy the GCX Audio Switcher
GROUND CONTROL PRO SPECS:
Simultaneous control of up to 8 MIDI devices
8 assignable instant access switches
Controls up to 4 GCX Guitar Audio Switchers
Name each preset
Use volume/expression pedals for real-time control of your sound via MIDI continuous controller messages
Hand built in the USA
CLICK HERE to buy the Ground Control Pro